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Diabase quarry reopens after 74-year dormancy.

A quarry which employed 65 men in Bruce Mines in 1897 has begun operations again as Ontario Trap Rock Ltd., extracting diabase, a hard igneous rock which will be marketed in the U.S. and Canada for industrial uses.

James Bourque, president of Ontario Trap Rock, is a Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. resident, but the majority of the company's investors are Canadian. A two-and-a-half-year study, funded in part by a Northern Ontario Heritage Fund grant, encouraged investors to proceed with plans to develop the quarry which is located on approximately 1,000 acres of land in the town of Bruce Mines.

The history of the earlier operation is obscure, says Bourque. It was operated by Spence Brothers of Cleveland, and most of the product was shipped to that city from a deep water port in Bruce Mines for use in the construction of Cleveland's famous park roads.

By 1914 the quarry had been taken over by the Martin International Trap Rock company. However, by late 1914 Martin was in receivership, and by 1917 it ceased operation, laying off all of its 60 employees. Attempts to reopen the operation in 1928 met with failure, and the entire holdings were liquidated.

During the Second World War all remaining steel structures were removed for use in the war effort.

Diabase is an expensive material to extract, says Bourque, and the company will be focussing on high-value uses to justify the cost of extraction. At present it is working with a Finnish company which manufactures rock wool, an insulating material, in Sarnia. The resulting material has a high heat insulation value, holds its shape, and is used primarily for industrial applications.

The first shipment of material from the quarry left the deep water port in Thessalon in May, followed by a second in June. The rest of the summer was devoted to start-up activities, including on-going tests for additional uses, says Bourque.

However, the company is now gearing up for year-round operation, with an anticipated employment level in the neighborhood of 30 people. During start up most of the labor has been contracted to local firms.

"We're on target right now, but it is not a bed of roses," Bourque admits. The mineral base business is down this year. We've come through the first year, but it is going to take a lot of work to get it up and rolling."

One of the first obstacles to overcome is construction of the necessary roads to access and deliver the rock, at an estimated cost of $100,000.

For the foreseeable future, Bourque expects to truck the crushed product to Smelter Bay in Thessalon for shipment on the Great Lakes, but there has been some discussion of reopening the deep water port in Bruce Mines, which served the earlier quarry operation, to handle barges for the shipment of large rock pieces.

The company's geologist has confirmed that the site contains more than 100 million tons of diabase in a relatively pure deposit, an estimate confirmed by geologists from the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Finnish firm which has agreed to purchase the material.
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Title Annotation:Mining Report; Ontario Trap Rock Ltd.
Author:Dunning, Paula
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Nov 1, 1991
Words:519
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